Breeding for long-term sustainability

by AHDB Dairy on 06 December 2022.

Dairy producers are encouraged to review their genetic programmes following the latest update to bull proofs published today. The right focus on genetics has been proven to increase economic sustainability on a permanent basis. For most UK producers, this means selecting bulls on AHDB's principal breeding index, Profitable Lifetime Index [£PLI].

When £PLI was first launched, it was formulated to raise margins by £1 for every £PLI point. However, three studies conducted independently of AHDB over the past 24 years have shown its value to be far higher. Farm consultants, Promar, who undertook the studies demonstrated on three occasions - 2008, 2011 and 2021 - that each point of £PLI was worth more than £1 in additional margin.

In the most recent study, the value of each £PLI point was found to be £1.58 per year in real farm accounting situations. In a nutshell, all of this means that breeding alone can increase the margin for a 150-cow (average sized) herd by £30,099 per annum if it's in the UK top 10% for £PLI (average PLI £197), compared with the same sized herd of average genetic merit (PLI £70 ), based on 2021 prices and costs. (All £PLIs are based on averages and genetic bases used at the time.)

For those producers who don't run an all-year-round calving system, there are two alternative genetic index options. These are the Spring Calving Index (£SCI) for those calving in a tight block in spring and placing a heavy reliance on grazed grass, and the Autumn Calving Index (£ACI) for those block-calving in autumn, and therefore more reliant on winter feeding. Visit for the latest bull proof updates.

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